Most Common Heart Diseases

Heart disease is the major cause of death in many affluent countries. Cardiopathy or heart disease is a broad term that encompasses various diseases affecting the heart. It includes coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, hypertensive heart disease, valvular heart disease, arrhythmia, cardio-vascular disease, ischemic heart disease, heart failure and inflammatory heart disease.

CAD is caused when arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become narrow and harden due to old age, or accumulation of plaque on their inner walls. This is also called atherosclerosis. Plaque builds from fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances present in blood. This can cause arteries to narrow, block them or even cause blood clots that eventually result in reduced blood supply to the heart muscle.

Chest pain called angina, shortness of breath and myocardial infarction are symptoms of coronary artery disease that commonly affects as many as 459,000 Americans each year. Sometimes symptoms may be silent (silent ischemia) and evade detection. Treatment may require angioplasty or bypass surgery.

Cardiomyopathy occurs when the functioning of heart muscle called the myocardium shows signs of deterioration. People affected by cardiomyopathy run the risk of arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. Most cardiomyopathies occur outside the myocardium, when blood supply to it is reduced. This is known as ischemia.

High blood pressure can cause hypertensive heart disease, particularly when it is localized. It can result in congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias. Because of hypertension the heart has to work harder to pump blood. When it cannot put up with the strain it begins to fail.

Cardio vascular diseases are diseases like atherosclerosis that affect the heart or its system of veins and arteries. Some of the associated causes are diabetes and hypertension.

Valvular heart disease affects the valves that regulate blood flow between its chambers. It can be congentinal or degenerative. It can be diagnosed by lab tests, ECG and echocardiogram.

Valvular heart disease may also occur from inflammatory infections like infective endocarditis or rheumatic fever. Surgery involving the mouth, prostrate or female pelvic organs, increases the risk of infective endocarditis. Drug addicts using unsterlized needles are also prone. Patients experience fatigue, fever, night sweats, inflammation of joints and chills. Rheumatic fever is an allergic reaction to streptococcal infections that may have occured in childhood. Joint pains and lumps of red patches on skin are some of the symptoms. Treatment will depend on extent of damage and may even call for surgery.

Arrhythymia is a change in the sequence of electrical impulses of the heart. The abnormal rhythm of the heart may be slow or fast or irregular. With age the probability of its occurence increases. It may also be noticed during a heart atack or after it. It can be treated by drugs, pacemakers, defibrillators or ablation.

Heart failure results when the heart is unable to pump blood to the body parts. Body tissues get deprived of oxygen, resulting in edema from kidney failure. Heart failure can occur from CAD, hypertension, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease or even from alcoholism and drug addiction.

ECG, echocardiogram, angiography and stress tests, are some of the common tests to detect heart problems. Though some heart diseases are congenital or degenerative in nature, those like CAD and hypertension can be effectively handled by proper diet, lifestyle changes, regular exercise and a stress-free life.


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